Dragon 1/700 USS Randolph CV-15

Reviewed by Timothy Dike
The USS Randolph (CV-15) was commissioned on 9 October 1944, and subsequently deployed to the Pacific theater. She was the second of an improved Essex class often called the Ticonderoga class. She featured and extended hull with extra 40 mm mounts. The flight deck was cut back to give the guns a clear field of fire. The Randolph was very active in the Pacific. Its planes contributed to the fighting on Iwo Jima, as well as making raids on targets such as Okinawa and Tokyo. USS Randolph was capable of 33 knots and required a crew of 3448. In combat on 11 March 1945 the carrier was hit by a kamikaze which caused 25 deaths and damage to the flight deck, but the craft was able to continue on in combat.

The USS Randolph earned three battle stars for its World War II service.

For years the only Essex class carriers in 1/700 were the Hasegawa kit  and the Revell 1/720 kit. Both were nice 30 years ago, but fall short of today's standards. This new carrier from Dragon Models of Hong Kong, China also known as DML for Dragon Models Limited, has raised the bar for the 1/700 world. Designed using CAD (Computer Aided Design), the parts of this model could be test fitted and checked before tooling was produced. One the design was finalized the mold was cut using the latest cutting tool technology to produce some extremely fine parts for an injected mold. The end result is another state of the art carrier. Thanks to Dragon we now have a new Long Hull Essex AKA Ticonderoga Class carrier to go along with that Short Hull one previously released.
The hull is one piece with a separate hanger deck and lower hull.. There is some really nice porthole detail with eyebrows (rain gutters) above them and plenty of piping, vent, and other detail. The many openings to the hanger deck are all left open with separate roll up doors that can be shown open or closed. Click images
to enlarge
The flight deck looks like the one in the USS Essex CV-9, however there are two catapults, one slightly offset from the front of the deck. The deck on this carrier is also shorter to clear the field of fire for the bow mounted anti aircraft guns. This is typical of  Long Hull type Essex Class carriers. The deck is nicely engraved with some really intricate planking and tie down detailing. Note the deck elevator for a close-up of this pattern.
Probably the most exciting item on this kit, is this detailed hanger deck. It included some interior details and nice deck plate details. 
Notice the bow insert for the deck is different on this ship than the Short hull Essex. It is longer and includes two gun tubs for the 40 mm gun mounts. The bow deck piece is finely detailed with some really nice anchor chain molded on.

You even get a clear flight deck that will allow you to show off that detailed hanger deck. The deck is smooth without surface detail so you can clearly see into the hanger. Note one way to show off the details in this photo from Dragon below.

The island is another really nice part in this kit. The main sprue pictured below is from a very complex multi-slide mold that allows for detail to be molded on almost all sides. On a conventional mold, there are two halves and the parts need to be able to slide out of the mold. This prevents some surface detail from being included as it would be scraped off as the part was ejected out of the mold. The mold used here has what are called slides that pull from different directions. This allows detail to be cast on the sides and then before the part is ejected those parts of the mold slide out of the way preserving the detail. These types of molds are expensive and require quite an engineering effort to design.  This goes to show that Dragon is committed to offering the most accurate kits to modelers and is willing to invest in the Research and Development to bring it about.

The bridge has all kinds of detail on it from extensive conduit piping, to the watertight doors and molded on ladders.

The four dual 5" 38 cal gun mounts on this sprue are a testament to how detail can be preserved with this type of molding technology. The sights on the gun houses rival that that we see in resin kits.

Sprue C
This sprue is identical to the one in the Essex kit. It contains some of the walls that form the hanger deck as well as the separate roll up doors. Various platforms and other details are very sharp.
You might also notice that there are carly floats molded on the underside of many of these platforms. One other thing that I noticed was the absence of those dreaded Aztec stairs. Finally a kit that you don't have to try to scrape them off the platforms.

Sprue D
This sprue is similar to the one in the Essex kit except it has been extended on the bottom side to include the four platforms and sponsons shown below. The other items on the sprue include the walls and doors seen on the above sprue. It also included the boat cranes and deck edge elevators as well as the folding deck antenna masts. There are two different deck edge elevators; one with molded on underside detail and one without. The latter is designed for use with the included photo etch fret shown below. Again the modeler is presented with a choice in how they wish to build their ship.

Sprue E 
These sprues include many of the gun platforms and bridge platforms. Notice that in most cases the underside bracing is present. There are also several extra platforms that are not used on this kit. Stay tuned for details on future releases. Dragon has more in store for us in the future. Also notice the open grills in the top of the funnel cap, nice!
Sprue H

The sprue is exclusive to the Randolph and includes some Long hull specific platform details. Notice that on the bottom of several of them are Carley Floats.

Sprue K
This is the weapons spure and there are two of them in the kit. It includes the many anti-aircraft guns and various fittings used on the ship. Various radar's and other detail items are also included.
5" 38 cal guns are included in both open and closed types. The 40 mm guns are not bad but the gun barrels are a little thick. The 20 mm are also a little thick, but I really like the way they are molded. The front shield is offset from the pedestal and the separate gun can be mounted at any angle just like the real ones. You also get Mk-51 directors, searchlights and even some pelorus mounts. All are as fine as injections molding permits in this scale. Not to be overlooked are the nice life rafts that have some nice netting molded on.
Sprue J
A base is included to display your ship on should you chose to build it full hull. A nameplate is also included with a peel and stick label that fits within the border.
A photoetch fret is included that will allow you to replace some of the molded on details. The lower frame of the deck edge elevator and open radio antenna. You also get radar's and other platforms. There is also a variety of deck personnel in various poses that will lend action to your deck.
The decals by Cartograf include the aircraft insignia that were used during the war and include the red outlined insignia used briefly by some squadrons. The deck striping and lines are well done. They are all nicely registered and much improved from the typical kit supplied decals 
The aircraft in this kit are simply the best available in this scale. They are molded in clear plastic so you can mask off the canopies and when you paint them. When the paint dries you peel off the masking and are presented with a nice clear canopy. These aircraft also benefit from the CAD technology
SB2C Helldiver Dive Bomber (six included).
These are molded with separate propellers and landing gear. Panel lines are recessed and the lines of the aircraft look accurate.
TBF Avenger Torpedo Bomber (six included).
These torpedo bombers have recessed panel lines and folding wings. Separate gear and propellers are included.
F6F Hellcat Fighter (six included).
Also molded with folding wings and separate landing gear and props.
The instructions are a 6 page booklet showing the assembly in a step by step process that is easy to follow. Very thorough and well illustrated. Camouflage is shown with four elevation and one plan view.
The most obvious differences between the Long Hull and Short Hull Essex Class carriers are shown below. Notice the difference in the shape and length of the bow.
This kit is extremely well designed and packed with options. The modeler has many choices when building this kit. Full hull or waterline, Open hanger doors or closed, clear deck or opaque, and many more. Dragon USA lists this kit with an MSRP of $34.95 US. More than a fair price when you consider the extras. Right now this kit gets my vote for the best 1/700 scale injection molded kit on the market today. It even improves on their previous release the Essex. Bravo Zulu Dragon.